Sales Funnels Don’t (Always) Work
Promotional Items companies are going to tell you how important promotional items are to a company’s marketing mix. Social Media marketers are going to try to convince you that social media is the new way that companies do marketing. Digital marketers are going to convince you how important pay per click campaigns and sales funnels are. I’m not here to knock them. All of them can be important. But the question that small business operators need to ask themselves is, is it the right option for them? The short answer is, yes. They are all important and you should be doing them all, assuming your market is large enough and you have enough of a marketing budget to be doing them.
Unfortunately, I have heard so many small business operators that have become jaded with marketing; they’ve spent money with various marketing companies only to find that the results were severely underwhelming; I completely understand. Small business operators are constantly being solicited. Companies that come around telling you how important their offerings are to your bottom line, to your efficiency, to the health of your team and your business. And they all sound convincing. Furniture companies telling me how important it is for my team to be using electronic desks is the latest thing that people have been selling me. They tell me how sitting is the new smoking and how upgrading to a desk that can raise into a standing desk will not only improve the health of my team, but will increase efficiency. It all sounds great, and they’re not wrong. Sitting for long periods of time is definitely bad for you. But is that the answer to all my productivity woes?
Sales funnels have been around for ages. The best practice I have seen of this, is from the televangelist industry. They are fantastic at getting their congregation to send more money. But the thing is, it doesn’t work for everyone. The sales funnel follows something called the AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) model of sales. The AIDA model stipulates that customers need to follow along this path in order to convert into a sale or a lead. This however, isn’t the only model.
When it comes to professional services, it is likely more important that people are more likely to work with people that they Know, Like, and Trust. To be quite honest, I find that this applies to most small business operators. Although sales funnels can build awareness, awareness is very different than getting to know you and your company. Sales funnels are also not great at getting people to like you. If you’re buying a washing machine for example. You don’t need to like the store that you’re buying it from or the brand that makes the machine. However, if they tell you that they’ve won some awards for reliability, have some shiny new features, and there is this great deal going on for a limited time, it might make you consider buying a new machine if your own washing machine is getting long in the tooth and has needed to get repaired a couple of times. But think about barbers. People are known to travel out of their way to see the barber. It isn’t because the barber has followed this AIDA model. It’s because people have gotten to know them, people like them, and trust that they’ll come out with a great new do after visiting them. And if this is the case, then why would a sales funnel pertain to them?
The other thing to consider, especially for small business operators that provide professional services, is how many clients can you take good care of at any given time? What’s your capacity? If you’re a wedding photographer. You can only likely deal with 3-4 clients a week since most weddings happen on weekends. And if you’re booked up full, don’t forget that you need time for post-production to touch up some of those photos. So what good is a sales funnel that brings you 100 clients that month? You can’t accommodate them, and if you try, there’s a good chance that you’ll not be providing your best level of service for all of them.
If you are considering a sales funnel, don’t be fooled by the equations that they talk about. I’m sure you’ve heard it before. If you pay a certain amount for a campaign, you’ll end up with a reach of x. If you do this for multiple months, then you’ll be getting all these wonderful prospects. A very nice thing about sales funnels, is that they’re measurable. But the problem is, what is being measured? It’s great that the campaign generated a bunch of leads, but are these relevant leads? And how much time do you want to go through talking to all these leads to find the ones that are relevant? So if you are considering a sales funnel, make sure that you have a way to qualify these leads quickly.
Again, I’m not saying that sales funnels are bad. There is a place for them in some strategies and I’ve suggested this strategy to some clients also, but like I always say, ‘it depends’. If you do want to use a sales funnel, consider these three things:
1. Make sure that it’s one that furthers your brand.
2. Make sure you have enough collateral to support the campaign.
3. Instead of large sweeping campaigns, try smaller, more targeted campaigns.
So, here is an example of what I mean by running a smaller, more targeted marketing campaign. If for example, you’re doing a trade show as an example. When considering what marketing mix you want to engage in, think about your brand and what your mission statement is. Think about your audience. Think about who they are, and where you are reaching them. Walk through the journey of what you’re trying to accomplish. You might want to consider the following as your marketing mix:
- Booth Design
- Personnel of the booth
- Print collateral
- Promotional Items (giveaways, prizes, etc)
- Follow Up Email Campaign
If your budget is tight, then perhaps skip the giveaways and maybe give away a nice prize, or have your team dress in their own clothes with some instructions. All black, for example. Booth displays can also get expensive. And while it’s better if you can afford a stunning booth, it can still be effective if the booth design, while frugal, looks professional.
People coming to the trade show are already interested in the subject matter. The giveaways might entice them to stop by, but that still doesn’t mean that they’re interested in your offerings. If they both pick up some of your pamphlets and have left you their contact information, that’s likely an indicator that they’d be interested in a follow up. This then, is a great time for an email funnel. But unlike a generic funnel, this one is very targeted, and you can use the funnel to qualify these leads. Those who continue through the funnel, are likely great prospects.
What do you think? Are you using sales funnels as part of your strategy? Do you think that any of these suggestions will work for you?